Puerto Rico Amateur Radio Volunteers Take Part in Tsunami Preparedness Exercise
Amateur Radio volunteers in Puerto Rico participated in the CARIBE WAVE/LANTEX 14 exercise in March. The purpose of the exercise was to assist tsunami preparedness efforts in the Caribbean and adjacent regions, including the east coasts of the US and Canada. Since 2010, Amateur Radio has played a role in the exercise, executed in Puerto Rico in conjunction with the Seismic Net of Puerto Rico (RSPR), FEMA, the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Administration (PREMA-AEMEAD), and NOAA.
The March 26 drill offered a choice of two scenarios: An earthquake on the coast of Portugal, or a sub-marine landslide in the Gulf of Mexico. Puerto Rican agencies chose the Portugal scenario, based on a similar earthquake and tsunami event that occurred in that country in 1755.
The exercise commenced at 6 AM when the simulated alert notification of an 8.5 magnitude (Richter scale) earthquake was issued. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) was activated at 10 AM on various radio, TV, and cable outlets to announce the “situation,” and reminding listeners that it was a drill. Siren systems were tested, and government, public and private institutions in many cities conducted their own evacuation drills to test their preparedness and ability for citizens to travel safely to their nearest local refuge site. Schools and senior homes were the most active.
Amateur Radio worked with PREMA at an island-wide level. The Cuerpo de Voluntarios Radioaficionados de Puerto Rico (Volunteer Amateur Radio Corps of Puerto Rico — KP4CVR) has been the main player, activating from the 12 PREMA zones. Through a federal grant, each zone facility is equipped with a Kenwood TS-2000 transceiver. The point of contact was the KP4CAR repeater (147.210 MHz), located at the highest point of the island. The repeater can run for several days on emergency power.
The main responsibility of radio amateurs was to gather reports from other amateur stations around the island regarding how they were alerted: Broadcast radio, TV, cable, or other means such as sirens. The information is delivered to PREMA Headquarters for post-exercise evaluation and planning.
At the municipal level, the Bayman Radio Club, an ARRL Affiliated Club, assisted emergency managers in the northern city of Dorado, recently certified as “tsunami ready.” Organized by Jimmy Drowne, KP3BR, operators volunteered to assist with any kind of communication problem during the exercise, and the group was commended for its support of the drill.
PREMA Director Miguel A. Ríos Torres called the exercise a success, with valuable lessons learned. — Thanks to Angel Santana, WP3GW, Puerto Rico Public Information Coordinator; ARRL ARES E-Letter